Planning for the future through our strategic review

Rhys Moore, 29 October 2021

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” It’s become a popular quote, I think because it’s humble in the face of uncertainty but respects our need to think ahead.

There’s no shortage of uncertainty around. Humility about the future and our ability to predict feels right. But uncertainty does not mean sitting back and hoping for the best. Planning is everything.

So this autumn we are doing some long-term thinking at the NHF.

What’s happening?

We are speaking with our members, stakeholders, residents, and politicians, to help us plan and prepare for the future. This strategic review will focus on how the external environment for social housing may change over the next ten years – and how best to prepare. We will draw on a diverse range of opinions and insights, from across the sector.

We’ve invited members to attend virtual strategic review sessions to get involved in discussions and provide feedback. These conversations will help inform our new business strategy, which will be ready for April 2022.

What big factors will shape the external environment for housing associations?

How will public opinion move as we come out of the pandemic? Will we see a hardening of views towards welfare and public spending, as we did post economic crisis in 2008? Or might we see greater support for those on the lowest incomes? There are some positive signs in the latest British Social Attitudes survey, but there’s a good chance things could go the other way. We must prepare for both scenarios.

And what next for the economy and public finances after the most peculiar recession in recent history? Unsurprisingly, there is no consensus among economists, and most admit we’re in uncharted territory (see recent reports from the Resolution Foundation and Duncan Weldon).

Rather than trying to predict the future, we hope through our strategic review to anticipate and prepare for a range of plausible futures. By taking a broad view, we will be better placed as a sector to answer some fundamental questions including:

  • How will housing associations deliver on our purpose over the coming decade with many challenges ahead?
  • What are the outcomes for people in housing need we want to achieve, which ‘necessitous circumstances’ will be prioritised?
  • How do we manage the inevitable trade-offs and explain the choices made?
  • How should we collaborate in new ways to meet the challenges we face? From building safety to net zero, tackling the stubborn 11% of non-decent homes, and building public support for our work.

The conversation has already started and it’s been full of insight and challenge. Our members have responded brilliantly, and there is real enthusiasm among stakeholders who want to contribute.

At the NHF we are determined to support our members through uncertainty – understanding, anticipating and helping to shape the environment over the coming decade. We hope to come out of this planning stage on the front foot, making sure we can stay relevant and resilient whatever the future holds.

We look forward to speaking to a range of audiences throughout autumn and, alongside our board, we’ll turn this work into a new business strategy ready for April 2022.

If you have any questions about our strategic review, please get in touch.